The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 33, August 12, 2001, Article 10


   Allan Davisson writes: "Numismatic indexes are extremely 
   important. The indexes for articles in the BNJ series (British 
   Numismatic Journal) and to articles in the Spink Circular 
   and the Seaby Bulletin as well as the indexes published for 
   the SCBI (Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles) volumes 
   make information readily available that would otherwise be 
   barely, if at all, accessible. I remember clearly how hard it 
   was to find things in the BNJ, for example, before the two 
   index efforts were published (one official, one unofficial). 

   The British really seem to be good about this. Harry 
   Manville's three publications in his series, Encyclopedia of 
   British Numismatics, adds to this tradition. 

   I assumed, when we agreed to publish Bill Daehn's 
   exceptional annotated bibliography of English language 
   references on Greek coins that there would be comparable 
   interest. I was forewarned by some serious numismatic book 
   publishers that this assumption might not be sound. Those 
   who have bought the book have been enthusiastic. But we 
   have sold just over 100 copies despite advertising (including 
   a full page in The Asylum) and trying hard to promote Bill's 

   Is there something that differentiates those who follow 
   ancient numismatic literature from those who pursue British 
   references (a principal focus of mine) or American numismatics? 
   Or am I missing an important point somewhere? 

   I do know that those who have done the work on indexes 
   have taken on massive tasks. I know Harry Manville well 
   and am as amazed at the size of the task he completed as 
   I am at the work Bill Daehn did which I saw on a more 
   immediate basis." 

   Granvyl G. Hulse, Jr. writes: "As  Librarian for Numismatics 
   International I am in full agreement that an index of numismatic 
   periodicals is long overdue, and I would include in this 
   project books that contain more than one topic (IAPN's 
   "Numismatics - witness to history" is an example.) I have 
   had to admit defeat on more than one occasion knowing full 
   well that the answer to a query might lie in one of the many 
   magazines sitting on our shelves.  One of my constant 
   references is Elvira Clain-Stefanelli's "Numismatic Bibliography." 
   She did heroic work, but it is long outdated.   The International 
   Numismatic Commission briefly tried to do something similar to 
   what is presently being considered by listing current numismatic 
   research, but did not follow through. (To give one an idea of 
   the scope of the work before us, their listing of research for 
   the period 1966-1971 ran to three volumes.) 

   The problem is not in the software. The NI author index uses 
   a simple spreadsheet with a four letter code assigned to each 
   author. Our master listing by author is produced by simply 
   giving the command to sort.   The problem is the subject index. 
   When we first started to index the library the only useable 
   subject classification system available at that time was ANA's. 
   While I grant you that it is a camel turned out by a committee 
   that was going to build a horse,  ANA has been fully supportive 
   of our efforts, and a number of times has granted us permission 
   to add new classification codes to break down country 
   groupings that had become unmanageable. (The Benelux area 
   is one example - middle Europe another.)  I submit that the 
   creation of a standardized title /author/topic method of 
   identification does not require a special software program. 
   The problem will be - what do we use for our subject 
   classification system?  My preference would be not to 
   re-invent the wheel, but to expand the present ANA 
   system to meet our needs. Once we have agreed on a 
   standardized identification and a standardized subject 
   classification, any number of people can start scanning 
   indexes using any type of software available to them, 
   modify the results according to our agreed method of 
   identification and classification and ship their work off to 
   whoever is acting as the central clearing house." 

   Mrs. Craig N. Smith writes: "Late every Sunday evening, 
   my husband prints and shares his E-Sylum with me.  On 
   Monday morning, as I was reading through the August 2001 
   issue of PC World Magazine,  I remembered the E-Sylum 
   request for help on indexing software. In a letter from the 
   magazine, the topic of indexing came up.  In briefly touring 
   the website of the American Society of Indexers, it would 
   seem that they may be able to provide some useful information." 

   Some excerpts from the aforementioned letter from L. Pilar 
   Wyman, of Annapolis, Maryland: 

   "I would like to thank Stephen Manes for noting that: 
   "Professional indexing by a human being has become a quaint 

   But professional human indexers, such as myself, are still 
   around.  It boggles my mind that hardware and software 
   vendors do not rely on intelligent humans to assist with 
   indexing. (I wonder how much money could be saved on 
   tech support calls if the manuals themselves were indexed 

   "Information architecture" and "Web site design" may sound 
   like new fields.  But here's a secret:  It's all indexing -- ask 
   any librarian or other information professional.  But try telling 
   that to a Web site or database designer. 

   I have been writing indexes for over ten years, for a variety 
   of media. And the American Society of Indexers, 
   ( an association of professional indexers, 
   has been around since 1968. There's simply no excuse for 
   any interested company not to provide quality information to 
   its customer base." 

   [The site's "Frequently Asked Questions About Indexing" 
    page (  is a very 
   useful overview of the topic.  -Editor ] 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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